30 Years of Stewardship

By THC Archeology Division Staff

From modest beginnings with 10 participants, the Texas Archeological Stewardship Network (TASN) now boasts more than 100 members dedicated to helping the state preserve invaluable resources.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the TASN, an innovative program comprised of highly trained and motivated avocational archeologists who work closely with THC’s staff archeologists. These individuals are essential to the THC’s mission to preserve and protect significant archeological sites that shed important light on Texas’ prehistoric and historic past.

Stewards reside in communities across the state, alert THC staff about local archeological matters, and frequently serve as intermediaries between private landowners and the THC. The TASN is the oldest and most diverse program of its kind in America.

“The idea of working with archeological volunteers wasn’t new 30 years ago, but what Bob Mallouf (then-state archeologist) conceptualized was unique—a formal network of archeological volunteers to expand the reach of THC’s archeological program,” recalls Pat Mercado-Allinger, Archeology Division director and state archeologist.

Remarkably, four of the founding members remain active participants in the program. With an estimated two million archeological sites throughout the Lone Star State—most on private lands—the THC relies heavily on this group of skilled volunteers to carry out field investigations, document artifact collections, and help landowners obtain protective designations for important sites.

In 2001, Texas’ program incorporated a Marine Archeology Stewards component and is still the only state in the U.S. to have such a corps of volunteers. There are currently 108 TASN members who have accepted the invitation to participate in the program and agreed to abide by the TASN’s procedures.

The TASN stewards devote thousands of hours each year to a broad range of tasks, including:

  • Recording new archeological sites
  • Monitoring and protecting known sites
  • Seeking protective designations for significant sites
  • Recording private artifact collections
  • Conducting emergency or “salvage” archeology on threatened sites
  • Assisting in surveys to assess potential sites
  • Conducting events during Texas Archeology Month each October

State Marine Archeologist Amy Borgens seeks assistance from the marine stewards with underwater investigations, archival research, and public outreach. Each steward brings unique talents and strengths to the TASN program. Their efforts in preservation, education, and research are an essential part of the THC’s state archeological program. To date, only a handful of states have comparable stewardship programs, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, and Utah. Notable among these is the Arizona Site Steward Program, created in 1986 in response to Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt’s interest in the Texas program.

The commitment of the stewards and the positive impact of the TASN received national recognition in 2010 with its designation as an official Preserve America Steward.

“We’re honored to have received this recognition from Preserve America, because it acknowledges our volunteer stewards and their firm dedication to saving these real places for the benefit of future generations
of Texans,” Mercado-Allinger says. “TASN stewards are true ambassadors for historic preservation, promoting the scientific study and conservation of our shared archeological heritage."

This article was originally published in the Spring 2014 issue of The Medallion.

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